So Mohammed Al Fayed has flogged Harrods off to the Qatari Royal Family. It feels like the end of an era. As a child, when we lived in central London for a while, my mother used to take me to get my hair cut in Harrods. She claimed it was the same price as everywhere else but the cut was far superior to your average high street salon. I can still remember riding a huge rocking horse there (well it seemed huge at the time). After every hair cut we would visit the pet department and coo over puppies and kittens. Eventually, we moved up north and I didn’t darken the doorstep of the world’s most famous department store again for some time.
Fast forward a number of years and we found we had a school age son. We enrolled him at the local primary and he joined the nursery when he was 4. He went almost overnight from being a bright, lively child (and yes, wilful and demanding but aren’t they all at that age?) into a thug of astonishing aptitude. He seemed magnetically drawn to the naughtiest boy in the class who taught him all he knew about inflicting pain and a few choice words to go with it. After a while (and once we found out that the school was letting him coach the other boy in reading - a bloody teaching assistant at the age of 4!!) we bit the bullet and moved him to a local mixed prep school – smaller classes, better discipline we reasoned, blah blah blah. The uniform supplier of this school at the time was Harrods (you see where I’m going with this now?)
TS was joining one term after everyone else but, as luck would have it, Harrods was visiting on the last day of the holidays for a uniform sale. I took the precaution of phoning them to make sure they would bring a blazer in his size. As I arrived at the sale, I saw my blazer being sold to the woman ahead of me in the queue. They had no others with them. They helpfully rang the store for me. None in stock but they could order one - it would take two weeks. TS was beside himself. Never good at handling change, the prospect of going to a new school and being the only child there without a blazer was all too much. In a state of infuriated maternal stress, I sat down and penned a strong letter to Mr Al Fayed berating him for the psychological damage he had personally inflicted upon my semi-naked son.
The next thing I knew, I had a phone call from his P.A. Deeply apologetic, she assured me that they had sourced a blazer and that it would be delivered the following Monday. To be honest, I was gobsmacked and more than a little impressed. Monday dawned and I was expecting a bit of a brown paper parcel through the post. Time passed, the postman came and went – nothing. At around 5pm the doorbell rang. A guy of, say, 22 filled my doorway. The words ‘brick’ and ‘shithouse’ floated across my mind. He had a rectangular green and gold box in his massive paw. “I say!” he began and I stifled a snigger. “Are you expecting a blazer?” “Um, yes,” I replied. “Do come in.” The children were wildly excited to have such a massive and unexpected visitor. As he lumbered into our tiny terrace, the clearly-visible boot print on the side of his face gave away his status as a rugger bugger. TD was bouncing excitedly on the sofa. “Hello man!” she shrieked. “I say!” said ‘man’ again, “she knows my name!” This was almost too much for me and I politely turned my laughter into a coughing fit. Not so the kids who just roared with 4 year old hysteria. He didn’t seem even slightly perturbed, just laughed with them and went on his way. So; honour was satisfied, TS still hated school but at least he had a blazer now.
Two weeks later, a swanky green and gold van drew up outside the house. You could almost see the neighbours curtains twitching – eyes out on stalks. A man alighted and handed me a familiar-looking box. “Sign here please.” I did. Guess what was inside? Thanks Mr Al Fayed – it came in very handy when his sister started at the same school a couple of years later.